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Suspect Polish meat marketed as ‘Argentinean’ in Prague restaurants, AgMin says

Some Prague restaurants that have received beef shipments from a Polish abattoir accused of slaughtering sick cows have been promoting it as being ‘Argentinean’, Minister of Agriculture Miroslav Toman told Czech MPs on Wednesday.

Mr Toman said he had personally witnessed the mislabelling in what he described as a high-end Asian restaurant, adding, “And I do not mean a Chinese restaurant”.

A ministry spokesman said the restaurant in question is now being inspected by the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority and the State Veterinary Administration.

Around 300 kilogrammes of suspect Polish beef is known to have been imported into the Czech Republic. Minister of the Interior Jan Hamáček said police are carrying out checks on Polish trucks entering the country in coordination with veterinary officials.

NGO platform: President’s chancellor interfered with judicial independence

A platform of NGOs focused on fighting corruption and increasing transparency in government has filed a criminal complaint against the Czech president’s chancellor for allegedly interfering with the independence of the courts.

A legal analysis compiled by the platform Rekonstrukce státu (State Reconstruction) alleges that Chancellor Vratislav Mynář tried to influence judges in key courts to take decisions on cases relating to the Office of the President or in which President Miloš Zeman had a vested interest.

Rekonstrukce státu says in the analysis that Mr Mynář may have committed the crime of interfering with judicial independence when he met with Constitutional Judge Vojtech Šimíček and sent a letter to another judge, Josef Bax, when he was led the Supreme Administrative Court.

President Zeman may also have committing the same crime, the NGO platform says. Mr. Zeman and his right hand man have been accused in recent weeks by a group of Senators, among others, of seeking to influence court decisions.

Czech Republic plans to create orphanage in Syria

The Czech Republic plans to build a centre for orphanages in Syria, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Television after a meeting with representatives of the Syrian branch of the Red Crescent. The facility will at first have a capacity of 50 but will later be expanded, he said. A special foundation will be set up to run the orphanage and will seek to acquire funding from donors.

Last year Christian Democrat MEP advocated for 50 Syrian orphans being brought from Greece to the Czech Republic, a proposal Mr. Babiš described as nonsensical. He has been a consistent opponent of accepting refugees on Czech territory.

Norway’s Per Boye Hansen named artistic director of Czech State Opera

Norwegian theatre director and music manager Per Boye Hansen will join the Czech State Opera, part of the National Theatre in Prague, as artistic director this August.

Mr Hansen told journalists on Tuesday he aims to strengthen the international position of the opera and increase the number of new productions.

Prague is well placed to become a major city for opera on the level of Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London, he said.

The State Opera is currently undergoing a major reconstruction at is due to reopen in January 2020.

Czech fairy-tale film master Václav Vorlíček dies, aged 88

Václav Vorlíček, known for classic films such as “Who Wants to Kill Jessie” and the fairy tale “Three Nuts for Cinderella”, died of cancer on Tuesday at the age of 88.

Last year, Mr Vorlíček was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Kviff), officially known as the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema.

Mr Vorlíček studied filmmaking at Prague’s FAMU in the 1950s and began directing feature films in the early 1960s.

His beloved filmography includes several comedies made in collaboration with screenwriter Miloš Macourek.

ČSU: Czech foreign trade surplus dips to 132.7 bn crowns

The Czech foreign trade surplus dropped by 30.8 billion crowns year on year in 2018 to of 132.7 billion crowns, the national statistical office (ČSU) announced on Wednesday.

Compared to 2017, exports of domestic companies increased by 3.5 percent and imports rose 4.6 percent.

Germany was the country’s largest trading partner, accounting for about a third of Czech exports and a quarter of imports.

ČSU: Czechia ranks 12th in EU in industrial output with 2-pct share

The Czech Republic ranks 12th among EU countries with a 2-percent share in the EU's total industrial output, the national statistical office (ČSU) announced on Wednesday.

Czech industrial output grew 3 percent year-on-year in 2018, the fifth consecutive year of growth. Although above the EU average, the full-year growth rate slowed from 6.5 percent in 2017.

Leading 2018 growth was the production of computer, electronic and optical equipment, and metals. In previous years, the automobile industry was the biggest contributor.

RegioJet lawsuit against Czech Railways over assets transfer to SŽDC rejected

Private rail company RegioJet has lost its lawsuit against Czech Railways (České dráhy) seeking the return of approximately 7 billion crowns and default interest due to allegedly prohibited public support given to its state-run competitor.

In April 2015, RegioJet filed legal action over “assets required to maintain rails and their operability” that Czech Railways transferred to the Czech Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC).

RegioJet, the largest private rail operator in central Europe, is expected to appeal the decision.

Press: Babiš fined by council over conflict of interest

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been fined CZK 200,000 on a misdemeanor charge by the local authority in the town of Černošice after it ruled that he was in conflict of interest because he continued to control media outlets via the Agrofert conglomerate, Právo reported on Wednesday.

Mr. Babiš’s lawyers have filed an appeal against the decision by the authorities in Černošice near Prague, where he lives. A complaint had been taken to them by the Czech branch of Transparency International. The prime minister is suspected of still controlling the huge Agrofert group despite having formally transferred ownership to trust funds. He denies this. The European Commission is currently investigating Agrofert’s receipt of EU subsidies.

Weather outlook

Thursday should be cool and cloudy, with occasional snow flurries likely in central and northern Bohemia, rain expected in the Pardubice region and a fair bit of sun forecast for much of Moravia. Daytime highs should range between 0 to 4 degrees Celsius.